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Tokyo-3 had become a haunted city. Not merely abandoned, it was 
permeated by a very real force of fear. Only minimal security was needed 
to keep people at bay, and the soldiers that guarded its limits had 
tours of duty no longer than six months. No one wanted to be there.

No living thing wanted to be there, either. No dogs prowled the city's 
empty streets, though there were easy meals to be had of food rotting on 
the stores' shelves. No birds flew in the skies overhead. The fishing 
off the coast was negligible. The only agent whose marks were visible in 
the city was time. Time ate away at the buildings, pulled down the 
traffic lights, and sent cracks through the concrete that made up the 
street.

In time, everything in the city would collapse into the massive hole in 
the downtown over the Geofront. Lillith, the Angel on the cross, had 
left on a fierce and brutal column of fire that had taken her up through 
the hole. The blaze that accompanied her departure had leveled the city 
above the second story. It had also sucked up all the oxygen from the 
air as she went; the winds in her wake stripped the trees from the 
hillside and the litter from the streets.

So Tokyo-3 became a town that nothing wanted to live in, and that 
nothing was able to live in. Eight years after the terrible events, the 
forest had expanded marginally to recover the land it had once occupied. 
But inside the city limits, there were no grasses or weeds. And yet, 
Aida Kensuke had told them--albeit somewhat cryptically--that this was 
where they could find Ayanami Rei. Shinji wondered how her quality of 
life was, if she was doing well.

After he met her, he had an answer.

Perhaps she had been waiting for them, there on the ground by her 
apartment building. She was still dressed in her middle-school uniform. 
She was smiling, a real smile, showing every one of her teeth. A 
distracted part of Shinji's mind told him that it was the first time he 
had seen her smiling like this, with her eyes wide open and her hands 
clasped in front of her.

Ayanami Rei was a perfectly articulated set of bones, lying on the 
cement, staring up towards where her apartment had once been. "Nobody 
knows what happened," said Kensuke. "Maybe she lived through it, and 
somebody just told her to go home. Maybe she came back here because it 
was home for her. I, I hadn't thought about it before. Someone told me a 
couple of months ago that there were some human remains here in the 
city, but nobody had gotten around to recovering them."

"WHY THE HELL NOT?" screamed Shinji to the empty city. "Isn't she still 
a HUMAN BEING?"

Kensuke looked away. "It's not my responsibility, Shinji. I can't see 
every order through. Besides...the city should have been evacuated 
before the Seventeenth Angel appeared. People didn't know that it was 
Rei, you know. It wasn't anything personal. They thought that some kid 
had wandered in here and died."

Shinji dumped the few items in his day pack out. He picked up Rei's 
skull and stuffed it down in to the bottom of his bag, followed by Rei's 
cervical vertebrae. "You know what, Kensuke? I quit. I am THROUGH with 
NERV."

"I understand, Shinji."

Touji and Hikari had followed Shinji's example and were gathering up 
Rei's limb bones.

"It just doesn't make any sense...my father's getting fed and clothed, 
and at the same time, Asuka was abandoned and Rei wasn't given any 
proper respect as a human being. This is NERV's fault." Shinji was 
carefully slipping ribs into his pack. "So when you get back to New 
Amsterdam, you tell everyone that I've had enough, and I'm not even 
going to be an unofficial NERV employee, do you hear me?"

"Yes, Shinji. You're right."

They packed Rei's skeleton out of the city, through streets once 
familiar, now dead. On the hillside southwest of town, a few trees 
contemplated the city below them. It was a quiet, reflective spot. 
Shinji, joined by his friends, scraped out a grave where Rei's remains 
could be at rest.

"I'll see that a headstone gets placed here," Kensuke volunteered, "or 
something. We never knew Rei, did we? Any idea what she'd want here, 
Shinji?"

"None. Anything you do will be fine. Thank you, Kensuke."

The next morning found Ikari Shinji in his apartment, staring idly out 
the window. He had been travelling continuously for six days. Although 
he had promised his employers he would return to work that next day, he 
found he didn't want to. The thought of going back to an office where he 
was unappreciated, only to make other people a lot of money, made him 
sick. Sickness made him think of hospitals. Hospitals made him think of 
hospital ceilings.

The connection left him shivering with awe. He actually hated the state 
of his life. He hated his job, he hated living alone, and he hated 
himself for it being that way. Why couldn't he have kept his friends 
together after high school? Why couldn't he have gone out and gotten a 
real job? Was it too late for him?

 He looked around the room. His possessions were few in number: the 
computer, a few clothes, a couple of pieces of furniture--he hadn't 
needed more, he thought. In the bank was most of a year's salary. 
Really, the only thing he had was...

Shinji padded across the apartment and opened a closet door. His cello 
lay at rest in like the trunk of a nude. The auburn wood was warm in the 
morning light. After a little tuning, his strings still sounded 
beautiful and melancholy beneath the bow. "Well," he said to himself, "I 
guess I can't write novels, or compile crosswords, or kill people. I can 
still play the cello. It's been a while since I tried composing, 
but...there isn't anything left for me."

Two days later news arrived that the United Nations was constructing a 
monument to the memories of the people who had died in Tokyo-3. Shinji 
calculated that he had only really known a few dozen people during his 
days in the city. But there was a story he could tell about all their 
memories, and Shinji planned to be done with his exodium before Kensuke 
could finish his testimonial.

The symphony began gently and slowly in the key of E major. The solo 
cello played a flat, uninspired melody; yet the soul with which Shinji 
played it brought life, and a sense of sorrow, to those wholly 
predictable notes. After a few minutes, Shinji's newly-acquired 
synthesizer added an orchestral backing in c# minor. The tempo changed 
from common time to cut time, appropriate for a march, and dissonant 
bass chords with suspended thirds seemed to hound the lead cello...
--
Copyright 2000 Daniel Snyder. Permission to duplicate in any 
digital/binary/e-mail form; however, any physical printout is strictly 
prohibited. Shin Seiki/Neon Genesis Evangelion is the intellectual 
property of GAINAX. Any resemblance between persons living or deceased 
is purely coincidental.

I realized, in the course of writing this story, that there were several 
similarities between my story and others'. The concept of Touji becoming 
a physical therapist stems from Alain Gravel's "The One I Love Is...", 
while having one of the Children studying psychology comes from 
"Farewell, (to the Final)" by Daruma and Ka-Wing Tam. Although I did not 
consciously choose to emulate these two stories, the fact is that I read 
both before writing this one. All similarities should be considered as 
flattering and not simply imitative.